By Jess Reid
It's a commonly held belief in 2013 Britain that we live in a sexually enlightened (not sure what that actually means, but we'll go with it) age. Gay marriage is finally on the horizon. We're all on the pill, or similar (right?). Full frontal nudity on TV and semi-pornographic sex scenes are basically expected from most HBO shows.
It's okay to talk about sex now. Cosmopolitan have been giving us girls utterly implausible sex tips for fucking ages. It's totally fine to have had loads of sexual partners. If you've shagged fewer than three people by the age of 20 you're basically a virgin. Sex toys and various pleasure giving lubes and gels are sold in pretty, colourful packaging alongside aspirin. It's all cool.
Except one thing. In 21st Century England we still have an enormous problem with the idea that anything other than monogamy in a relationship is wrong. Everyone is a goddamn hypocrite.
I can't speak for you, but my friends are decent, kind people. And most of them have either at some point cheated, nearly cheated, or have been the scarlet woman/man with a partner who's in a long-term relationship. Every time this shit happens - and obviously it happens all the time, all over the country - people feel compelled to excuse themselves. They do not want to be the guy or gal who is a 'cheater', despite the fact they cheat. "Oh, it's 'cause I was drunk. I'd never normally do it, that's wrong." "Oh, me and [enter partner's name here] had argued and he/she was just there. It was a one-off, I'm not like that." Except you definitely are like that. We're all like that. Sorry.
I've argued this for years. Argued that infidelity in long-term, monogamous relationships is often inevitable. Don't get me wrong, for some people it works, it's natural, it's fine. Good for them. But for an awful lot of people it's a Herculean task, a constant struggle with the self, a battle against all bodily instincts.
People will give me aghast looks, and say, "But I just couldn't be around someone who cheated on me. I could never trust them, I'd always feel insecure. I couldn't touch them after they'd been with someone else."
It stems from our medieval belief that sex is sacred. Sex is special. In a committed relationship, that level of physical intimacy with another person is crossing a line. If you believe sex has some higher meaning, that it is a way of 'connecting' with your loved one... well, fine. But you're wrong.
Sex is stupid. Sex, despite you feeling like a fucking rock star, looks stupid. It's two naked people humping, making awkward noises and collapsing afterwards in a sweaty, sticky heap. Sex isn't a beautiful, loving action; it's an animal act, performed by the animals that we are, for purposes of enjoyment and procreation. It's a glorified cuddle; something to do with another person that feels nice.
So entrenched is monogamy in our moral compasses that it will always be deemed the accepted way, and we'll go about our business with the not-so-secret world of adulterous shenanigans. We'll continue to sing the praises of monogamy and live in this universal self-deception. Adultery sites exist, but who do you know that would ever admit to having been on one? We'll continue to put unreasonable pressure on our loved ones, we'll continue to feel guilty and relationships will continue to end for no good reason after a naughty tryst.
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